As time goes by - Feb 1982
Oh, goody! We get to go through all that again. Gee whizz, terrific. Me, I'd made extensive preparations for the budget. Cartons of smokes, a bottle of this, a bottle of that. Heard a rumour that newspaper prices were inncreasing so I began hoarding a stock of the Irish Times. Time for one last night with the elbows down in O'Donoghues before they start taxing barstools.
Just when things were getting blurrred and interesting Declan took some time off from dispensing pints of loose porter to let me know that Jimmy Kemmy had had an attack of connscience and the circus was coming back to town.
Shucks, just what I needed.
Gulp the Jernrny, make tracks. Just as I expected, the National Executive of the Spontaneous Aggravation Party was going into emergency session in the lounge of The Oasis. It is only fair to admit here that SAP was caught with its socks down. Who would have thought Jimmy had a conscience ˆafter he voted last July to up prices by five or six per cent and limit those on unemployed assistance to a three per cent rise? Still, a lot of people with consciences did things like that and worse - and will do again in the comming months.
Our General Secretary, Lazy Pete Maguire, was fuming. It's just a few months since the Abstentionist Party and the Spoiled Vote movement merrged to form SAP and, frankly, we have better things to do with our time than worry about politics. Or, at least the kind of politics represented in the Killdare St. doss house.
Lazy Pete had been too busy dealling with the real world to get around to finalising our new rules for general elections. These rules, had they grabbbed the imagination of a sufficient proportion of the population, would have resulted in the jailing of most of the political hustlers who are even now making obsequious forays down the streets and boreens, putting on their sickly smiles and begging for a Number One. (Those of us familiar with the colloquial meaning of the term Nummber One will be quite ready to tell them to Number One off.)
If our proposed rules were in force the half of the hustlers who didn't end up in jail would hopefully end up with pneumonia.
Rule (A) goes like this: if I proomise to give you something for someething else and you deliver and I don't - what this is called is crime. Fraud. Politicians make promises which they don't or can't keep and receive votes in exchange. (See Fianna Fail's 1977 Manifesto, Fine Gael's Plan for Dublin, Labour's 1981 Manifesto - to name but a few straightforward lies.)
Such fraud is usually laughed off °they even refer to each other's maniifestos as frauds in a nudge-nudge mannner. You go offer somebody a Datsun in exchange for a Simca, take the Simca and toddle off with a sneer on your face and the Datsun keys in your pocket and you'll have some explainning to do to a judge. These criminals toddle off in Meres - chauffeur driven.
So, a time limit on promises, and when the time's up and the promise is reneged the lads in blue arrive and cart the hustlers off to the funny house.
Rule (B): the antics in which these people engage while soliciting votes lower the tone of humanity. One poliitician (I won't name you, Sunshine, so you owe me one) last June went to the depths of sleeping in a tent, ostennsibly to illustrate a shortage of hotel rooms (I think you better go back and read that again - a shortage of hotel rooms. You're taking all this in, I hope. One should be aware of the pressing issues of the day). The purpose of the exercise was to get a picture in the paper, a bit of publicity. This was not the worst thing to happen, but such behaviour should be equated in law with defecating in a public place. (At least the latter is an act of nature - the former is an unacceptable perrversion. And it happens in full view of children.)
Our rule would limit the national campaign to a single two-hour TV programme in which the party leaders are grilled. Should any of these people prevaricate, evade or lie in response to a question it would take a mere majorrity vote among the grillers to have them removed from the studio. Local candidates would be required to spend eight hours a day for a week standing on the back of a lorry at a central location within their constituency. There the populace could come and question them, insult them, heckle, or just watch the fun. Any candidates daring to knock on a door or stick papers through a letterbox or kiss a baby would be jailed. Canvassing would disqualify.
Should it rain during their period on the back of the lorry so much the better.
Lazy Pete and Fingers Kavanagh had cobbled together the bones of a SAP manifesto when I arrived. Studs O'Mahoney had already made her conntribution to the debate and had gone back to her flat to ink the duplicator.
"What we must remember", urged Lazy Pete, "is that we are competing with hustlers who think ethics is a county in England. Our campaign must be geared not towards getting seats in the doss house - but towards turning people's minds away from the race between tweedledum and tweedleedee and towards the real world."
As it was too late to campaign for our new election rules we settled for publishing a manifesto which would put things in perspective. On the charge that workers are living' beyond their means we say - too true. Most of us are living beyond our means the way prices are going these days. Ansswer - increase the means. Thirty perrcent pay increases all round.
On unemployment: simple. Draw up a list of things needing to be done - housing, roads, food, health, you name it, there's enough lacking in socciety. Draw up a list of the unemployyed and their skills - match the lists. It will take time and there's no profit in it, but it beats building an airport for a rural Canon with political clout.
Social issues such as divorce, conntraception, .abortion, etc. SAP is watching carefully for attempts to play political games with these issues. We have compiled a list of the sexual indiscretions of politicians and several dozen copies will be run off between now and the election - one wrong step and the list will be distributed in the pubs of the constituencies of offending candidates on the night beefore the election.
The emergency session adjourned to Studs' flat and we spent the night duplicating the manifesto. On Thurssday morning copies were distributed to local units of the party in Drummshanbo, Ballavarry, Corofin, Clara, Navan, Broadford, and other "key centres.
The next morning, I'm sure you'll have noticed, there was panic on the Stock Exchange, £26m was wiped off the value of shares, £200m of Governnment stock was offered for sale and the index fell by ten points. SAP is not to be trifled with.